Hey, who hasn't tried to kill their roommate with an electric hedge trimmer?
While many of us wouldn't mind having a Japanese model for a roommate, putting two of them together in the same living space becomes a deadly proposition in Yukihiko Tsutsumi's 2LDK. Made in conjunction with the Duel Project (a contest between directors to see who can make the best "duel to the death" film), 2LDK is Tsutsumi's answer to Ryuhei Kitamura's Aragami. Like that film, 2LDK benefits from a pair of strong leads and manages to be immensely entertaining despite a limited budget and a rushed production (both stipulations of the contest).
Lana (Maho Nonami) and Nozomi (Eiko Koike) are a pair of models/actresses who are put up in a swank Tokyo apartment by their talent agency (an apartment with 2 bedrooms, Living room, Dining room, and Kitchen -- hence the abbreviation 2LDK). But while Lana is a jaded city girl who's done plenty of unsavory things in her career, Nozomi is a small town girl whose only real experience is performing in local beauty pageants and talent shows. Needless to say, Lana can't stand Nozomi because she's forced to live with her, and a guy she once dated is now calling her . . . and because she has bigger breasts. If that weren't enough to raise tension in the apartment, the girls also learn that they are up against each other for the same part.
Nozomi isn't crazy about Lana either, and when Lana uses Nozomi's expensive hair product, then keeps her awake by playing loud death metal, their little conflict comes to a violent head. Suddenly, they go from mild bickering and two-faced compliments (While Lana tells Nozomi she looks pretty, a voice-over lets us know that she's really thinking "I'd like to kill this bitch") to all-out brawling.
Beginning with a set of ornamental swords, the two begin to tear the apartment and each other apart in short order, using a variety of household implements as weapons. There's one or two subtle nods to movies like The Shining or The Evil Dead (in one scene, Lana carves her way through Nozomi's door with an hedge trimmer, then glares through the hole with a maniacal grin) and the girls seem to kill each other repeatedly, only for the fallen one to get back up and go at it again a moment later. Although the running conflict is shockingly violent at times, it's also surprisingly funny, and even carries little overtones of the household brawls that Peter Sellers and Bruce Kwouk used to have in their roles as Inspector Clouseau and Cato in the Pink Panther films of the 70's. I never knew that 90-pound models were so resilient to electrocution, drowning, and traumatic blows to the head.
But despite the occasionally graphic nature of the violence, 2LDK marches forward with tongue firmly planted in cheek until its bloody, and ironically funny, conclusion. Despite being confined to the limited setting of their apartment, the pacing never lags, and the verbal sparring and nasty thought-balloons they lob at each other are just as entertaining as the physical blows. Each actress is well suited to their role, and although each character definitely exhibits some catty tendencies, they are each driven by their own inner demons and insecurities. It's not a simple case of good girl vs. bad girl, but simply two average girls who end up pushing each other over the edge.
2LDK works as both a stand-alone film, or as a companion piece to Duel Project competitor Aragami. If you're looking for a couple of fun films for an action/horror/comedy double feature, these two should be near the top of the list.
DVD extras include most of the ones found on Aragami -- a featurette about the Duel Project, and footage of the stars and directors at the premiere. There is also a making-of video diary with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews of director Tsutsumi and stars Nonami and Koike -- all three of whom amply describe what a grueling affair it was to film 2LDK within a week.